HBO has often pushed ambitious projects which approach TV from a different angle. While most channels churn out entertainment, HBO’s audiences expect something more.
They expect to be asked questions, to unravel mysteries, to follow intricate dialogue and most importantly, they are treated with respect. Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight and Westworld all do this, and Chernobyl is right there with them.
The character motivations are murky, their ambition shielded. There is no good guys or bad guys here; there is simply Chernobyl. The nuance comes in the fallout, and whether the worst case scenario is death, loss of career or the USSR’s position on the world stage. The show demands that you keep up and it’s all the better for it.
Absolutely none of the lines are played for laughs, but beyond that the lines are layered and subtle too. The show doesn’t try to baffle you with the nuclear physics to make it seem clever; this is a very human story about arrogance, hubris and secrets.
Though the characters are on the same team, it never seems like it as they battle over priorities; keep the secret or save the civilians.